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Want to live with fewer regrets? Try these three things:

I am a woman who looks back on life with very few regrets. Want to know how I did it? The simple answer is I said yes more than I said no. Open up to what life offers you and even if you’re feeling a bit nervous, say yes. When you say yes more than you say no, you have amazing experiences and fewer regrets.

Yes I regret some things I’ve done but the regrets that linger longer are the things I haven’t done. The trips I didn’t take, the concerts I missed, the job I turned down.

When I’ve done something that I regret (the starter marriage in my early 20’s for example), I can still find something valuable in the experience. It taught me what was really important to me in a partner and when it finally ended and I fled to Australia, I learned an immense amount about myself, traveled to a country I’d always wanted to go to and met amazing people who are still friends today.

When I haven’t done something (the exchange trip to France in my last summer of high school for example), I only remember what I missed out on. It has become a regret.

Do what you love when you love it. The other thing I’m learning lately is there is a time and a season for all that we love. You have to follow your passion when you love it because there may come a time when you no longer love it. When I was in my 20’s, I never missed the Vancouver folk festival. It was my soul food and I did whatever it took to get to it. I once drove eight hours on a Friday from a wilderness camp I was working at to get to Vancouver in time for the Friday night concert and left again on the Monday, driving eight hours back to the camp. It was so worth it. I danced to wonderful music under the stars with close friends, saw my hero Ani di Franco perform (and got to have lunch with her backstage because I was a volunteer). After the weekend, I returned to my job with a full heart, energized and ready for the week ahead.

Last year my husband and I took the kids to the Vancouver Folk Festival. We spent most of our time at the Children’s Play Area. I ran in to very few friends. This year we aren’t going. My time with the folk festival has passed. And I don’t mind a bit because I reveled in every minute of it when it was my passion. If I hadn’t made it a priority, I would likely feel some regrets about missing the folk festival now.

It may seem like a little thing – attending a folk festival – but it was a huge priority for me and I chose to be there every year because I knew how happy it made me. That’s what we have to do, think about what feeds our souls and makes us deeply happy and find ways to make it part of our lives. So often we get so busy that it’s difficult to make time for what we love but we must slow down, think about what’s important to us and then prioritize it. Otherwise life becomes a long list of regrets – I wish I’d gone on that date, I wish I’d taken that trip, I wish I’d tried for that promotion, I wish I’d taken that class. We can re-arrange our lives and make time for what we really love. It takes time and thought but it’s worth it to live a life of our own making rather than one that just happens to us.

The few regrets I do have usually entail the things I didn’t do –  an amazing job I turned down due to family obligations, a relationship I didn’t start because I couldn’t see how it would work, a trip I didn’t take, a story I never finished writing. Those are the things we wonder about in the years to come.

How about you? How have you found ways to have fewer regrets? What might you look back on someday and regret not doing? How do you choose the way you spend your time? Have you taken time to think deeply about your priorities and what feeds your soul? Next week, I’ll be blogging about how to prioritize what really matters to us and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

16 Comment

  1. I like the idea, but how do you balance saying yes to everything that comes my way with suddenly having a long list of stuff to do and not enough time? With social media, internet and constantly being connected (along with two lovely and busy kids and all of their activities, and supporting my wife with hers) I have way too much coming my way.
    I liked your other articles about focusing on what counts – how do you balance being open to the world and everything – even most – if it also wears you down and fills you up too much?

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and question. It’s a fine balance isn’t it Michael? I’m not sure there’s an easy answer but what I’ve found is that when I prioritize what’s really important to me at the time (right now it’s my kids and husband, my work and my writing – in that order) then I’m able to filter my decisions about what I say yes to through my priorities. I love to do it all and I can’t so right now I’m focused on the key people and activities that really help me. I’m also getting good at asking for help – carpooling with other families sometimes and also making use of my time – when I’m waiting for kids at activities, I’m writing a blog post on my phone, etc. I think it’s so key to balance out doing what fills us up with what drains us and of course, as you mention, being too full of all the good things is overwhelming as well. These days, I’m really focusing on limiting my time and activities to being with people I love and doing work/writing that fills me up and then balancing that out with just relaxing.

      The other thing I’ve found has really helped is spending less time on social media. I installed an app called Moment which monitors how many times you pick up your phone and how much time you spend on it so that level of awareness has helped me cut down a lot. Did you see my next post about making more time in your life? Hopefully between my response and that post, it’ll give you a few ideas about finding that fine balance. Thanks again for your comment and question.

    1. I so agree that I also regret not spending more time writing but now is clearly the time for both of us – as you say, sometimes we need to be strong enough in our passion to take action, glad we are on the journey together!

  2. Your words really resonate Stephanie.. I have always tried to live life with no regrets and embrace opportunities when they came. Sometimes I had to work hard to make the opportunities successful like you driving 8 hours to the Vancouver folk festival and meeting Ami Di Franco (lucky you!!) I do obviously have some regrets and things I’m sorry I didn’t do or sorry for things I did do that hurt people in the process.. But overall living life in the now was and is so important. Right now I really feel the need for more adventure, perhaps that is because of my office bound job and because I am creeping towards the age 50 and things are starting to hurt more in my body.. Anyway your message is a timely reminder to embrace the opportunities in the now and to keep doing so while they are valuable to who I am and the people I share my life with. Keep up the inspirational writing.

    1. Rach, you are someone I have always thought of as living life to the fullest and in the now. I’m so glad the words resonated with you and thanks for your positive feedback. I love seeing all the photos of your adventures and I can sense you’ve imbued your girls with the same passion for adventure and being in the moment that you have!

  3. I love how you bring a new way of looking at things, a little twist to things people may think about but not in just that way. Refreshing. Yes, some things you think you will love forever and you don’t….surprise! Now….how to work the passions in to life and not let work, caring for kids etc squeeze them out! I have found lately begrudging how much of my energy work life takes….attempting a shift in perspective and craving more time to do what I love…a fine art indeed!!! Thanks Steph

    1. I feel your pain in terms of trying squeeze the passions in amongst so many responsibilities. It’s so worth it though and such a good example to our kids! Thanks so much for your positive feedback and I love the idea of shifting your perspective. Reframing can be so valuable!

  4. Hello Stephanie, great blog! I too have been realizing lately what used to feed me no longer does and It’s time to explore other passions that feed my soul! Lately it’s been more solitude and spending time at home creating art, nesting, and cooking …or as I call it … science experiments! The need for quiet contemplation is greater than the need to speak! How unusual for me! 😉 Here’s to letting go and moving forward one step/day at a time! ❤️

    1. I love hearing about this Tracey – thanks for sharing! It’s lovely to see how we change and I’m so happy (and not surprised at all) to hear you’re following your heart as it leads you in new directions. Enjoy!

  5. Beautifully stated and great reminders, Steph. Its so easy to move through life on automatic pilot. Your post is a gentle nudge to check-in more frequently with what really matters. Thank you.

    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful and happy to hear it’s a gentle nudge (sometimes I worry I sound too bossy!)

    1. Thanks Nicole, I’m having a super fun summer as I’m sure you are as well – you’re so good at having fun and doing what you enjoy!

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